Local student bullish on future in agriculture

After finishing high school, Kerry Hyatt of Devlin wanted to continue her education focusing on agriculture—something she always had been interested in.
But due to the mad cow crisis, which left the industry unstable at the time, Hyatt was encouraged to look at different options.
She started her post-secondary education by taking the Early Childhood Education course at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Man., and then began a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Brandon, but didn’t complete either one.
“It would have been nice to have the piece of paper but . . . I didn’t like anything else and I knew I liked agriculture,” Hyatt remarked.
“I’d rather do something I like and not make a lot of money, then to do something I don’t like and make a lot of money,” she reasoned.
That’s when she made the decision to go back to Assiniboine Community College to study Agribusiness—and now she sees a future in the industry for herself as well as for Rainy River District.
“I see more opportunities coming up every day,” Hyatt enthused, noting several agriculture-related intern positions were filled in the area recently.
“It is becoming more stable again . . . and once an abattoir is established, I’m sure we’ll see a big agriculture boom in the district,” she added.
Hyatt began working at the agriculture research station in Emo last month as part of the co-operative education requirement of the two-year Agribusiness program.
She will work there until October, then head back to the classroom to complete her final six months of schooling before she receives her diploma.
“It’s a really worthwhile course,” Hyatt enthused. “I recommend it to others interested in agriculture. I don’t think anyone around here has done it.”
She believes the Agribusiness program is more beneficial than taking agriculture production at school.
“[That’s] something you can learn just by working on the farm,” she explained. “But the business of agriculture teaches how to market ideas and products.”
Hyatt has taken classes on accounting, researching, and marketing, and also has learned ways to make agriculture viable.
She said the program allows for extensive hands-on learning in labs and on field trips. And students have to complete a comprehensive business plan which is submitted in a contest hosted by Farm Credit Canada.
“It’s a huge project—we’re basically developing our own business,” she stressed, noting her group had to research locations, costs, and determine how they would make money on their cow/calf feed lot operation in Saskatchewan.
“But it’s really great experience,” she added.
Hyatt plans to bring everything she’s learned back to Rainy River District.
“I would come back here no matter what,” she remarked, adding one day she hopes to start her own agriculture business and work with the other farmers in the area.
She’d also like to get more young people interested in the industry and coming back to the district.
“I think with farming, people are putting a lot of money in and not getting a return,” she noted. “We need to look at the bigger picture and maybe make some changes.”
She stressed “food localism”—creating direct links between farmers and consumers—is key.
“Buy local and sell local is my mission,” Hyatt urged. “We have to support each other.”
In addition, she believes keeping local farmers aware and knowledgeable of new technology would help the agriculture industry here.
“Lots of farmers have questions about new technology,” she said. “For example, 20 years ago no one knew about soil sampling and now people are asking these questions to improve their farming operations.”
Hyatt noted she’s really happy with her work in agriculture so far.
“This is what I wanted to do all along,” she remarked. “Learning to make your land work for you, to make your cattle work for you.
“People have to think differently to get that to happen.”
Being the only student in her Agribusiness program from outside Manitoba, Hyatt conceded her peers often tease her about farming amongst all our “rocks and trees.”
“If they were to come here, I think they’d be surprised with the agriculture pocket we have here,” she indicated. “They don’t realize what we have. Sure, it’s small, but there’s so much to offer.”
Hyatt wants to find an agriculture job in the district once she completes school and feels she has nothing to lose by diving into the industry.
“If I try something and it doesn’t work, what have a got to lose? I still end up with nothing,” she chuckled. “But I’d really like to prove everyone wrong.”